Image by Ivy Sanders Schneider

“Here Comes the Break” | On Literary Fiction Today

Alexandra Kleeman, Andrew Martin, Christian Lorentzen, Clare Sestanovich, Gabriel Smith, Hannah Gold, Lucie Elven, Missouri Williams, Sanjena Sathian, Tope Folarin

As we were preparing to launch this magazine, we told our first cohort of writers not to pitch us anything about contemporary fiction. We were bored by it, we said — mostly but not entirely tongue-in-cheek. 

This issue, we’re making an exception. It seems to us that the literary ground has shifted, and the forms and themes considered most exciting just a few years ago are now all but exhausted. Maybe that was inevitable, the ordinary fluctuation of literary tastes, or maybe the experience of Covid-19 — those panicked early months, and their drawn-out second act — hastened it along. It’s probably too soon to trace the ripple effects of the past few years with any precision or perspective (we are, resolutely, bored by “pandemic fiction”), but we can at least dip our toes in and take the temperature. To that end, we’ve asked some of our favorite critics and novelists to weigh in on the state of the genre: Which styles are dying out, and which are flourishing? What’s changed since 2020, or even 2015? Glibly… did the pandemic kill autofiction?

Clare Sestanovich | “Nothing Happens”

Alexandra Kleeman | “A Loss of Resolution”

Andrew Martin | “The Spirit of Revival”

Christian Lorentzen | “Welcome to the Party”

Missouri Williams | “Form Is Back”

Gabriel Smith | “The Stare”

Tope Folarin | “An Opportunity to Act”

Hannah Gold | “Something Must Be Happening”

Sanjena Sathian | “Room for More”

Lucie Elven | “Feel on Command”